Martin Rushmere on the Marin Theater Company’s Waiting For Godot

 

Waiting for Godot

Marin Theatre Company

Through February 17

 

A world where evil and killing are virtues while sanity and goodness are punished by death. Samuel Beckett had just lived through that in France , when he wrote Waiting for Godot in 1949 (actually in French as While Waiting for Godot). And now, the new dawn after the war was not so great after all. Stalin was wearing the same cloth as Hitler, just giving it a different name, China was in a civil war and Europe was flattened economically.

Godot reflects this bleakness. The two tramps are symbols of all of mankind – waiting for a better future but with little hope, only ourselves to rely on, keeping our spirits up and trying to figure out what life is all about. And they are tramps because, regardless of riches, all mankind is stripped down to the same essentials in tackling life and thereafter.

One of the toughest plays in the world to stage successfully, because there is no beginning, no plot and no ending, Godot requires a confident director and accomplished actors. (High schools and colleges should avoid it, because the actors have hardly started on life’s road and have little instinct of what Beckett is talking about).

 Marin Theatre Company has certainly achieved that, with virtually faultless performances from all four characters and director Jasson Minadakis knowing what he wants. Mark Anderson Phillips and Mark Bedard are at the top of their game, getting every step and utterance just so.

The question is whether it’s the right achievement. British productions I have seen often veer too much to the maudlin and bleak, producing a plodding, dull result.

Marin Theatre Company does just the opposite. The pace zips along, overcoming leaden patches in the dialogue.

The trouble is that comedy crowds out the somber, right from Estragon in the opening scene trying to pull off his boot. There are so many ways of interpreting this, from pathetic through desperate and all the way up the scale, that it acts as a signal of what the director is aiming for. Minadakis lets us know without any doubt. Certainly there are some delightful passages in Godot but this production overshadows, and sometimes smothers, the grim phases of life that Beckett highlighted.

At one point it seemed as if Bedard overplayed the comedy or was hinting that there is too much emphasis on humor. His one utterance of “We are waiting for Godot” was delivered in the style of a stand-up night club routine on Comedy Central.

Minadakis stays exact to Beckett’s balance of grim, bleak and funny only in the appearance in the First Act of James Carpenter as Pozzo and Ben Johnson as Lucky. Pozzo embodies the materially successful side that humans can aspire to, crushing everyone beneath him. Carpenter excels at that, eliciting a twinge of malice from the audience, who want him to be brought low.

Johnson deservedly earned applause for the nonsensical monologue, which I’ve always thought that Beckett overdid (just what is the point of uttering obscure British place names?), that sums up the constant mental anguish clogging our brains.

For audiences seeing Godot for the first time, this is a fun way to do it. But the deeper, hidden themes are elusive.

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Martin Rushmere is a journalist and writer in Sausalito, California. He can be reached at martinzim@earthlink.net

 

Synchronized Chaos, February 2013: Past and Present

Welcome, readers, to the February 2013 issue of Synchronized Chaos! This month, our contributors are going to take you on a journey into the past: we’re presenting a number of pieces which examine bygone days—ranging from personal histories to ancient events to recent incidents to past artistic genres—and tell us something about their connection to modern times. Let’s examine what our authors and artists have to say on the topic…

Poet Shelby Stephenson opens the issue with a pair of eye-catching excerpts from two longer works. Each one takes the events of the past and makes them resonate in a modern context: “Country” draws upon the popular culture of the 1950s and ‘60s and the giants of the country music genre, while “Nin’s Poem: A Bipolar Memoir” takes a more personal turn, drawing on memories of love, education, and historical milestones to weave together a compelling tale.

Personal reminisces are also the subject of Cristina Deptula’s poems in this issue. Cristina, a longtime editor for Synchronized Chaos, contributes “Gordon’s Airplane” (inspired by a family friend who was a private pilot), “Harmony with Nature” (a humorous look at the dichotomy between modern technology and the natural world), and “Wise Construction” (a soul-searching look back at the flaws of past actions).

Regular poetic contributors Linda Allen and Sam Burks both contribute a variety of excellent pieces this month. “David and Goliath,” one of four poems by Linda in this issue, looks back to a traumatic childhood event to tell a story of religious faith and survival in a life-threatening situation. Meanwhile, several of Sam’s poems address the past and its connection to the present: “Your Body Is the Missing Season” describes a past relationship in evocative terms, “The 29th” deals with the passage of time, and “Tomorrow” examines both the present and the future through the lens of the past.

Other exceptional poems come from Teri Louise Kelly, whose “Spore Suite” deals vividly with the brutal consequences of love, life, and relationships past and present, and Tatjana Debeljacki, who contributes four pieces, several of which focus on the pain of the here and now but look towards a more hopeful future.

With his essay “Pilgrimage to Wounded Knee,” Jeff Rasley moves us into a different type of history: incidents which occurred long ago but nevertheless retain all their relevance today. In his piece, Jeff discusses his family’s connection to one of the most shameful events of America’s past and describes how a recent trip to South Dakota helped illuminate some of its modern-day repercussions.

Janine Canan’s poem “Crucifixion of a Woman” deals with an event in the more recent past, but one which is no less significant or problematic. It’s just the first of a set of six “Poems from India” by Janine which range from real-world events to evocation of memories to pieces of abstract beauty.

This issue also includes reviews of three recently-published books. Each one is well worth a read, and each has a significant connection to the past. In Brant Waldeck’s children’s novel The Secret of the Portals, covered here by Bruce Roberts, the link is a stylistic one: the book hearkens back to the epics and swashbuckling adventures of bygone days. Bruce also reviews Windham’s Rembrandt, Jonathan R. Humphries’ depiction of his father’s experiences as an art teacher in the Texas prison system, and ponders upon some illuminating connections to his own past. Meanwhile, Elaine Starkman’s poetry collection Hearing Beyond Sound engages with the past in yet another way: as reviewer Deborah Fruchey explains, it is specifically designed to evoke the memories of old age, and it is filled with references to historical events both personal and political.

Speaking of the world of writing, this month’s installment of Leena Prasad’s column Whose Brain Is It deals with an effect which good stories have had on their readers since the distant past, and which they’ll continue to have as long as they exist. “World of Words” describes the brain’s ability to create vivid mental pictures of the action occurring in stories, and we predict that this experience will be a familiar one to our readers!

In his essay “The Climate War,” Randle Aubrey takes a look at the destructive tactics used by Exxon, Shell, and other major fossil-fuel-dependent corporations. Addressing both the past (the history of questionable practices employed by these companies) and the future (the methods needed to combat them), he makes a compelling case for social reform. A further take on the climate change comes from Dr. John J. Berger, interviewed in this issue by Cristina Deptula; comparing present weather conditions to those of the past, Dr. Berger paints a disturbing picture, but he also creates hope for the future in the arena of renewable energy.

More thoughts on technology come from Lukas Clark-Memler. In his essay “We, the Noughties,” he considers the cultural outlook of his generation–the multitudes born in the last years of the twentieth century–and points out some particularly troubling aspects of the modern emphasis on instant gratification, celebrity aspirations, and high-speed technological development.

The technology of a much more distant past is referenced in the piece at the top of this post: it’s titled “Aqueduct” after one of the most revolutionary inventions of the ancient world. It, as well as five other superbly-crafted abstract pieces by artist Mark Yearwood, can be found here.

We hope you enjoy this month’s issue of Synchronized Chaos! As always, please feel free to leave comments for the contributors; if you’re interested in submitting some of your own work for the magazine, please send it over to synchchaos@gmail.com.

“We, the Noughties”: An essay by Lukas Clark-Memler

We, The Noughties

by Lukas Clark-Memler 

I’ve never liked decade-themed costume parties, and I’m not one to embrace the novelty of historical dress up. These ‘retro’ celebrations only make me worry about my own generation’s cultural identity. How will we be remembered?

Since the 1950s, each subsequent decade brought with it a unique and new generational aesthetic. New fashion, new music, fresh culture. It’s simple to reduce each decade to a clear-cut stereotype, and easy to dress up for a themed party.

The latter half of the 20th century was one of remarkable cultural, and more specifically, musical evolution: each decade pushed the boundaries of music further, in a direct response to its predecessor. The ‘60s responded to the sheltered formalism of the ‘50s with the hysteria of Beatlemania. To which the ‘70s rebelled against in an experimental decade of psychadelia and punk. The ‘80s injected music with a hedonistic glam and saw the rise of electronic instrumentation, while the ‘90s stripped music all the way back down to its grungy base.

But what about the Noughties: all of us born in the dying light of the 20th century, and coming of age in the face of the new millennium. What trends, and genres of music will come to define us? How will we our current epoch be simplified, characterized and ultimately commercialized?

While our musical output has indeed been prolific and diverse, there hasn’t been any real progression. The past decade has been one of ‘post’ prefixes and historical pillaging. Artists have chosen to resurrect the skeletons of bygone musical movements instead of innovating and pushing forward. We’re left with a fractured era of music, on the cusp of cultural irrelevance.

And since music plays such a huge factor in defining cultural identity, the Noughties are in trouble. I fear we’ve become too skeptical to buy into mass culture. Our attitude of aggressive individualism makes an overarching generational style impossible. We don’t want cultural ubiquity and we seem uninterested in solidarity; we adopt a militant irony when it comes to self-definition. The Noughties refuse to be put in a box. No collective consciousness, no cultural identifiers, no distinct music or style. Like our namesake: Generation Nothing.

Our knee-jerk cynicism keeps us from wholeheartedly embracing a mainstream identity. We choose to regurgitate ‘retro’ fittings, instead of adopting ‘now’ fashions: our style is nothing more than historical bricolage.

The Noughties seem to almost transcend contemporary taxonomy. So I thought I could help shed some light on my birth cohorts, and offer a rough definition of a generation on the verge of oblivion…

We’re a digital generation. We believe in technological innovation, not cultural evolution. Films will be replaced by YouTube channels; newspapers by blogs; personal contact by instant messaging. As inexorably as CDs replaced vinyl records, MP3s will conquer any kind of physical music format.

We don’t want to press a button, give us a touch screen. We don’t know how to use a phone book, a dictionary, an encyclopedia; there’s an app for that. We can’t read a map, send a letter, hell, we can barely manage a telephone conversation. ‘Social networking’ has destroyed our social skills.

We’re happy to recycle trends from the past, so long as our laptops keep getting thinner. We claim that technology has helped us to progress, but if anything it has stunted our growth. We don’t need to think anymore; computers think for us. Apple would sell us a soul if they could market it and we would buy it: brushed steel, shiny glass, and all. iThink therefore iAm.

We’re a generation of instant gratification. We hear a song we like, we download it immediately. We’re not going to wait a whole week for the next episode of a television show; we’ll stream the entire season online, in one hit. We’re not going to sit through two hours of cinema for the denouement; give it to us straight away. We want dessert before the meal. We already want next year’s model.

We want ten thousand songs on a palm-sized machine, and refuse to pay for a single fucking one of them. We like our culture the same way we like our cheeseburgers: cheap, quick and predictable.

We’re a generation of planned obsolescence. It’s in our blood. We subconsciously know that our iPhone will need to be replaced within the year, but that’s okay, because our phones are smarter than we are. Technology’s expiration date is only matched by its low prices. But we don’t shop in physical stores anymore, how quaint. The Internet fuels our rampant consumption, sale after sale after sale. We’re not a target market, we’re the only market.

Our parents told us stories about social change, about individuals who made a difference, about great thinkers and philosophers. We didn’t understand what they meant. We don’t believe in the power of thought, the power of collective intention or originality; we’re a generation of plagiarism and apathy.

Technology has corrupted our generation’s artistic integrity; we stream, rip, torrent and pirate without hesitation. Cinemas are closing down across the world. Concert tickets are at record prices, reflecting the dwindling number of album sales. Once great songwriters are forced to dream up television jingles to survive.

We’re a generation of blind ambition. We yearn for the spotlight; for a million ‘likes’, ‘shares’ and ‘followers’. We want to be an Idol. We want to be worshipped. We expect a major record deal to come from a laptop recording. We viciously blog about our mundane lives and expect a book contract. There is no line between public and private. We are our online presence.

We’re nostalgic for the simplicity of the late 20th century, yet watch us scorn at the primitive technology of our predecessors. That smug look of technological superiority dances across our faces whenever we watch a pre-Noughties film, see someone with a Walkman, or hear someone talk about MySpace.

We remember the ’90s, but don’t dwell in the past. We’re denizens of the present, caught in the awkward first decades of a new millennium. We’re veterans of the twentieth century, and rookies of the twenty-first: old and young, cynical and recklessly optimistic. We’re not ignorant; we have a perpetually-scrolling newsfeed of the world at our fingertips. But we’re unaffected, apathetic, happy to stand on the sidelines and watch as the world burns…

… It doesn’t have to be like this. The first step to recovery is acknowledging the problem, and our problem is serious. We face a generational identity crisis more severe than anyone before us. So let’s take this as a warning then. If we don’t unplug ourselves and go to a concert, stop streaming that movie and go to the cinema, stop online ‘chatting’ and have a real conversation, then we might be remembered as the generation that stopped cultural progression.

I believe we are entering a cultural dark age. We need to turn our focus away from technological advances, and towards cultural revolution. We need to spend less time exploring the depths of the ocean and the furthest reaches of the galaxy, and look inside ourselves for answers. We need to find the spark to light up a new generation of poets, performers, troubadours, radicals, artists; we need to bring forward a cultural renaissance, and leave behind our digital dystopia.

I have faith that us Noughties can overcome our rocky start and forge a distinct collective identity. We have the potential for greatness, we just need to put down our technological distractions and get busy. It’s not too late. We refuse to be condemned to the footnotes of history and we, the Noughties, will make a name for ourselves in the coming years. Watch this space.

 

Interview with Dr. John J. Berger on Climate Change

An Interview About Climate Change, Climate Activism,

 Renewable Energy, and Personal Responsibility with

Energy and Natural Resources Author John J. Berger

Q. How is Climate Myths (and the rest of the series) different from other climate-related books?  What does it add to the debate?

A. Climate Myths: The Campaign Against Climate Science is intended as a concise and easily understood popular book on climate change that you could give to that cantankerous old uncle of yours who believes climate change is some kind of a hoax dreamed up by leftwing environmental fanatics.

Climate Myths is unique in both exploring the massive disinformation campaign that’s been mounted by the fossil fuel industry on climate change, and then simultaneously coupling that investigation with rebuttals of popular fossil fuel industry-sponsored myths and misconceptions about climate change.

The book thus helps account for the fact that although the human role in disturbing the climate has been well known for decades and the role of greenhouse gases has been known for more than a century, U.S. climate policy and, by extension, global climate policy has been significantly stalemated for the past 20 years by opposition from people and institutions supported by the fossil fuel industry.  Climate Myths exposes this below-the-radar universe of powerful industry interest groups that has been so influential in molding public opinion on climate change, and with our legislators.

The operation of these well paid, skillful and predominantly right-wing groups is largely responsible for the fact that many people, including policy makers, have for years now been deeply misguided on climate and energy issues.  Thus, they are now suddenly shocked by the arrival of the extreme weather that that climate scientists have been predicting and warning of for decades.

 

Q. How did you do the research for Climate Myths? Whom did you talk with, where did you look, etc?

A. I’ve studied and written about energy and environmental issues for decades so I didn’t base this book on casual journalistic interviews.  I read thousands of pages of scientific reports and journals by climate scientists and attended scientific meetings.  I spoke or corresponded with a few scientists when I needed a better understanding of their research or technical questions. I reviewed government studies from NASA, NOAA, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the U.S. Global Change Research Program, and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  I also read nontechnical books by scientists like Joe Romm, James Hansen, Mark Bowen, and Tim Flannery and by serious outstanding journalists like Mark Lynas and Fred Pearce.  Mark Lynas’ book Six Degrees, in particular, is extraordinarily useful.

 

Q. I know this is part of a series, and that you’re going to get into climate systems and solutions in the next two books. Do you have any big ideas or thoughts you’d like to give us as a preview?

A. The book that I’m finishing now is called Climate Peril: The Intelligent Reader’s Guide to Understanding the Climate Crisis. Climate Peril shows how grave the climate crisis is—the tremendous price that we’ve already paid and are going to pay in terms of human and environmental health and socioeconomic well being, and how pervasive the increasingly adverse climate impacts are across many different ecosystems and natural resources.

The present is already deeply alarming: the oceans are rising at an accelerating rate and acidifying; ice is melting in Greenland and the rest of the Arctic and in Antarctica. Extreme weather and fires are on the upsurge. The Amazon and other tropical rain forests are beginning to dry out.  Frozen permafrost holding 1.9 trillion tons of carbon is beginning to melt in the Arctic. Millions of people have already been sickened or died from the effects of the rapid climate change we’ve had so far.  But the future is even more menacing.  If current emissions trends continue, we are heading straight toward temperatures in 2100 that haven’t been seen on this planet in 5 million years. We cannot allow Earth’s temperature to rise to levels that only prevailed long before humans even existed.

Even the so-called safe temperature increase of 2° C would be hotter than at any time in the past 800,000 years. That conceivably could drive the Earth’s climate past various tipping points that could trigger irreversible climate feedbacks.  We don’t yet know enough about the exact temperatures at which these triggers will fire and deliver uncontrollable additional warming.

Absent that knowledge, we are currently conducting a totally unprecedented and reckless experiment with the Earth’s climate.  Climate Peril shows what we’ve already done to the Earth and makes clear that we are heading rapidly towards a climate catastrophe.  One of the most important take-aways from the book is that the 2° C safe warming threshold we often hear about is really not an absolute guarantee of safety, and that we really don’t have much time left to change course in energy and environmental policy, given how vast the changes required of us are.

In the book that follows Climate Peril, a book titled Climate Solutions, I outline the policies that I believe are necessary to address the climate problem as effectively as possible by weaving together energy and transportation with agricultural and forestry programs that, taken together, will arrest the growth of emissions and begin to reduce the burden of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.  The primary goal of the book is to show how we can combine protection of the climate with economic policies that bring full employment and a just, sustainable economy.

 

Q. As a science journalist myself, I’d like to know what would you say about the role of science writing and journalism in the movement to restore and protect the Earth. What can writers do that adds to the work of the ecologists and other scientists?

A.  I believe that science writers, like translators, are vital to communicating complicated ideas of science into language the public can understand.  This creates a larger bloc of people who really understand climate issues and the choices that have to made about them.  Science writers understand the methods and language of science and ideally are able to convey it more simply and clearly in ways that are more interesting to people without specialized backgrounds.

One way they do this is to humanize the issue by writing stories in which scientists are protagonists portrayed as characters overcoming obstacles in a saga of discovery. Science writers also sometimes focus on the human implications of research, for example the child cured of asthma by a new medicine or a wetland restored by the ecologist or hydrologist who understands how nature operates and therefore can write a prescription for repairing it.

In that sense, science writers can highlight good work that can then serve as a model for others to follow. The science journalist can also synthesize and correlate important field observations and bring new scientific and investigative findings to light, as Rachel Carson did with the harmful effects of DDT. Cynics would have us believe that bringing truth to light and expecting change is naïve, but dispelling lies and inaccurate information was essential for controlling pesticides and tobacco and thereby protecting public health. It is equally or more important for science writers to dispel the lies and misinformation that are now so current about climate change so that public officials and leaders have accurate information on which to base climate policy. The information itself is not sufficient to bring sound policies—hard political organizing is necessary—but honest information is a necessary prerequisite.

 

Q. Who is the main target audience and what is the main goal of Climate Myths?  Is your primary goal to convince those skeptical about climate change, or to educate the general public, or to inspire activists to take even more pro-environmental action?

A. While I hope to reach the general public, I understand that most people are not buyers of books on climate change.  So I think this book will appeal mostly to intellectually curious people; to college faculty and students, environmentalists, activists, renewable energy advocates and entrepreneurs as well as legislators and their aides. As I mentioned earlier, it would be a good “pass along” book for a friend or family member who is confused or skeptical about climate science.

 

Q. What would you say to those concerned about the scalability of renewable energy technologies to people who say it can help on a small scale but won’t replace oil or coal anytime soon given our standard of living in the West.

A. If you look at the magnitude of the renewable energy resources and their declining costs and versatility and increasing adoption rates along with the still-extensive opportunities for increased energy efficiency, you can’t help but see that renewables have the capacity to meet very large energy demands indeed. Our wind resources alone are far greater than our electrical demand. There are huge untapped solar resources in the southwestern deserts of the U.S. and northern Mexico and on rooftops throughout much of the nation.  We also have important geothermal and biomass resources and new technology is emerging to harness wave energy. Hydroelectricity has been an important resource for generations. The main obstacle to the wider use of renewables is political rather than technological. I explain my views on renewables in some detail in previous books like, Charging Ahead: The Business of Renewable Energy and What It Means for America (University of California Press) and in Beating the Heat: How and Why We Must Combat Global Warming (Berkeley Hills Books) and in “Renewable Energy Sources as a Response to Climate Change” a chapter I wrote for Climate Change Policy (Island Press), a volume edited by the late Stephen H. Schneider and others.

 

Q. Why and how did you choose to emphasize restoration ecology as an approach to caring for the environment?  What makes it especially important, alongside other strategies?

A. Restoration is a proactive way of addressing damage that’s already been done to the Earth.  Conservation is critically important.  But if we confine ourselves solely to conserving what’s left of Earth’s natural bounty, we will forever be forced to defend a steadily shrinking perimeter of relatively untouched, healthy resources.  Nature is always under threat and has to be defended vigilantly. Without a proactive environmental restoration agenda, we’ll always be on the defensive in simply trying to protect the environment.  Our goal should be to improve the environment, not merely to slow further losses. Moreover, restoration is often necessary to arrest environmental degradation, like soil erosion for example, and prevent further inexorable damage.

Overall, we’ve got a tremendous backlog of badly damaged natural resources on this planet in the form of severely disrupted mined land, clearcut forests, abused rangeland and prairie, toxic waste sites, and polluted rivers, lakes, streams, and estuaries. With ever-increasing global demands on natural resources, we need to return these injured resources back to healthy, productive condition wherever possible.

 

Q. What are some of the best ways ordinary people can get involved in helping our environment and transforming our energy systems? I know you’ve talked about that in Restoring the Earth (Knopf, Doubleday Dell).  What would you say people and policymakers should do that would be practical and have an impact? By the way, we’re an international magazine and plenty of our readers are non-Western (India, Pakistan, Eastern Europe, parts of Africa, etc.) Would you have different thoughts and suggestions for them? I know the condition of the planet affects everyone!

A.  As you noted, whole books have been written on these questions. The answers vary a great deal depending on the nature of the problem, location, and the conditions surrounding it.  I’ll mention a few general principles first and then some more specific ideas.

First let me address the policy question.  Many constructive steps can be taken.  We need to phase out all public subsidies to the fossil fuel and nuclear industries and impose a carbon tax on fossil fuels. This will make fossil fuel use progressively less competitive and will provide revenue that can be used to build a renewable energy economy. The burning of fossil fuels is the main problem, and the use of nuclear power is not a cost-effective way of replacing them. We need to give producers of nonpolluting power generous long-term energy production tax credits to make clean energy even more profitable to producers and to help them in securing long-term financing. The use of coal power without carbon sequestration has to be phased out as quickly as possible and renewable energy R&D needs to be scaled up. The destruction of forests and wetlands needs to be stopped globally and policies need to be implemented in agriculture to reduce nitrous oxide and methane emissions.

In the U.S. we need a comprehensive national energy plan aimed at nothing less than a total transformation of our national energy system.  It needs to include a steadily increasing national renewable energy requirement, the electrification of the transportation system, more and better energy storage technologies, and modernization of our electric transmission system and its reorientation to enable our remote renewable energy resources to provide their abundant power to major urban markets.  Furthermore, it needs to be designed in the context of a domestic full employment and economic revitalization plan aimed at creating a sustainable and more equitable society, so that ordinary people will both benefit from, and vigorously support the plan.  Calls for such a program initially have to come from below, from organized but ordinary working people.. Pressure will work its way gradually upward from this base to put powerful pressure on those in power at the top.

In terms of personal action, each person has different gifts and passions. We each need to do something that makes best use of our talents and determination not to stand by while the Earth and the climate are abused.  I don’t live in Eastern Europe or in a developing nation in Asia or the Southern Hemisphere so I’m not sure I’m in a position to advise people in those societies.

These are some general thoughts mainly for the U.S., although some may apply elsewhere. Fundamentally, protecting the climate is a large and complex issue.  Trying to work alone can be overwhelming, so work with others. Find organizations whose concerns you share and volunteer with them or support them in any way you can.  On a personal level, we can all try to avoid wasting energy and resources, and we can be conscientious when we shop or invest so we support companies that are trying to behave in environmentally and socially responsible ways, for example by observing Fair Trade practices and using renewable energy. We can also read widely and educate ourselves about climate problems, share our knowledge with others, and become involved in the political process.

The least we can do is exercise our right to vote, a right people fought and died for.  Yet almost half the American electorate doesn’t even bother to vote in presidential elections.  Far fewer vote in off-year elections. Less than 56% of those eligible voted in the 2012 presidential context.  People under 30 were even less engaged—about half of them didn’t vote.  My suggestion is, don’t fail to vote!  And during campaigns, support candidates who are working for climate protection, safe energy, economic justice, and truly representative democracy. When elections are over, demand meaningful action on climate change from your political representatives.  Let these powerful people know what your concerns are and that you will absolutely not support them—and will discourage others from voting for them—if they fail to stand up for climate protection, the environment, and the public good.  Don’t accept “no” for an answer.  Recruit others to join you in political action and organizing.  Support new candidates who understand the problems and what needs to be done.  Use people power to create a groundswell of political pressure for change.

Change comes from the bottom up. We may not have the financial support of wealthy corporations or major donors, but millions of people do care about the Earth and the climate. We need to find and connect with them to build a politically powerful base for change. Don’t forget to also commend leaders when they do the right thing. They also very much need encouragement and support.

I believe there is still reason for hope, but that we are perilously close to irreversible climate change that will trigger uncontrollable global warming.  We don’t know precisely how close we are—no one has a year and a date—but scientists at the prestigious Hadley Research in the UK have said that if we continue on our present course, it could happen as early as the middle of this century.  That’s less than 40 years from now and probably within your lifetime.

In terms of the rapidly rising carbon content of the atmosphere and the rising global average temperature, we are clearly close to the point at which, for example, we finish melting the Arctic sea ice, destroy the Amazon rain forest, release more carbon from permafrost, and possibly oxidize the massive Indonesian peatlands, putting so much carbon into the air that the strength of the ensuing positive feedbacks overwhelms anything we could conceivably do to counteract these powerful natural forces. The hour is very late to begin making the dauntingly vast and pervasive changes in energy production and use, along with the far-reaching land use changes required to rapidly and definitively set global emissions on a downward trajectory. The work that needs to be done is so enormous in scope and scale that the prospect is absolutely sobering, but I believe it is still conceivable to accomplish.

On the daunting side, population is still growing toward 9 billion; global energy demand is climbing; global oil and gas exploration and development is booming—including production of highly polluting tar sands and oil shales and oil and gas drilling in fragile frontier locations. Trillions of dollars have been committed worldwide to the fossil fuel energy and transportation enterprise. The quicker we change over to clean energy systems, the more of that infrastructure will have to be retired before it wears out. The large corporations holding those assets will resist that with everything they’ve got and will mobilize their lobbyists and pull all the financial strings that large campaign contributors hold to control Congressional representatives.  (It’s important to note, however, that some fossil fuel plants are old and have already been fully amortized.  Their outputs can readily and economically be replaced without much controversy by renewable facilities and by greater investment in energy efficiency.)

Meanwhile, construction of the needed renewable energy facilities and new transportation technologies is not going to be a walk in the park.  Expanding the electric grid involves jurisdictional issues and building new renewable energy facilities requires time-consuming environmental studies, permits, and battles over rights of way.  Better and less costly energy storage facilities are needed to compensate for the intermittency of some renewable technologies.  Better batteries are needed for electric vehicles.  Then people will take time to adapt to new vehicles and modes of transport. Less expensive biofuels with fewer environmental impacts need to be mass produced.  Forests, wetlands, and prairies that naturally sequester carbon in soils need to be protected, enhanced, and restored; global agricultural practices need to be improved to reduce their emissions.  A lot needs to happen very, very quickly.

On the encouraging side, the nation and the world have the natural resources, the scientific knowledge, the collective economic might, and the energy technologies to deal with the extraordinary global crisis we face.  When faced with epochal threats like Pearl Harbor and World War Two, the U.S. pulled together and rose to the occasion.  Once political leaders really fully grasp that we are in the midst of a global emergency with everything ultimately at stake and no time to waste, then they will finally get that we must slash carbon emissions and create a worldwide renewable energy economy. From that point, the shift will begin to accelerate and—if climate change has not by that time begun to undermine our economy—the creation of the new energy economy will revitalize the global economy. Then as new jobs materialize and emissions fall, the process will inspire new hope for a sustainable future.

To accomplish this, our greatest challenge is develop the political will as a nation and as a family of nations to take the bold and far-reaching actions that are absolutely necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to protect the climate, human life, and the environment that sustains us.

We don’t have time any more to lament the situation or make excuses for inaction.  Everyone can do something.  We need all hands on deck.  Be determined. Fight the good fight.  Do something, no matter how insignificant you may think it is. Chances are you have more power and influence than you think. Millions of other people are out there who already silently agree with you. They will stand up if you do.  Use your power.  Amazing and tremendous things have been done and will be done by committed individuals.

 

Poetry from Linda Allen

David and Goliath

It was time to wash the hotel’s winter blankets

Don’t understand why though it is July

and super-duper hot

Grandma gave momma tons of quarters

Momma wouldn’t let me carry them

I was mad

Momma and I walked across the street with huge bundles of blankets in our arms

Momma started a load of blankets in the BIG washer

HEHEHE I could fit in there

Momma said she did not bring enough quarters,

she had like a bazillions

so I got to go back across the street alone

and get some more quarters

and carry them back

I skipped all the way to the end of the parking lot,

stood on the curb,

looked both ways checking for cars

to see if it was clear and it was

so I skipped off the curb and onto the street

WHAM!

Next thing I know I was on

to the ground and under a

sea green colored car

MOMMA, MOMMA, MOMMA!!!

I tried to roll out from under the car

I had rolled slightly when the sea green car backed off me

and then pulled back onto me

my ankle feels weird so I move it when the car back off again

then the car pulled back onto me,

my hip and ribs

OWWWW!!

A lady gets out of the car freaking out, crying, and yelling,

I hear my momma running and yelling curse words

and “get the car off her baby”

Yay! Momma

I see an angel next to me and she said

“I took my eye off of you for one second because usually you don’t need me. I am sorry baby.”

Oh she pretty,

long blonde curly hair, pretty sparkling silver dress,

and silver glittery shoes, like Dorothy’s red ones

a black lady telling my mom, that when she was running,

she nearly took out her eye with her flip flops

hahahaha

Momma was cursing and telling the black lady

that she could care less about her flip flops

her baby was under that car

Oooooo, what’s that?

I see something spinning and turning under the car

It looks like David’s slingshot

from David and Goliath

I look at my angel,

Dorothy is what I will call her

she smiled and said something weird

I was David and I was about to be taken down by Goliath, but not defeated never defeated

Some of the people gathered around calmed my momma down

don’t know why she is freaking out and cursing

 they even got the lady to get back in her car and back off me

the lady backed off me and pulled back onto me again

 the people and my momma looked shocked

“This lady don’t know how to drive Dorothy”

I say to Dorothy

Dorothy smiles and says

“You’ll be fine baby. You are strong and this will only make to stronger. Christine is off you now. See.”

An old man with a hairy chest, like Daddy, and Momma came to my side

the old man walked right through Dorothy

the old man said “You be brave now child.”

and walked away

a very cute ambulance guy came to put me on a hard board thingy

then belted my neck in a thing

I don’t like this neck thing, it’s weird and my neck is fine

there was another guy with the cute ambulance guy,

but he sat in the back with me and Momma

“What kind of music do you like Linda?”

The cute one asked

“Country”

the other guy turned on the radio

the song “Blue” by Leann Rimes was playing

I sang along

Not All Angels Wear White

She’s a best friend

She has dreams of a better life

She’s always available to listen

She saves my life

She’s an angel, but she doesn’t wear white

He has a family

He works hard to provide

His hands are scared, calloused, and worked to the bone

He saves countless lives

He’s an angel, but he doesn’t wear white

She a single teenage mom

She fights a battle every day

She struggles to survive and provide

She is raising a baby conceived by rape

She saved her and her baby’s life

She’s an angel, but she doesn’t wear white

Not all angels wear white and have halos

Not all angels know they are so

Not all angels had an easy life

Not all angels can fly

Not all angels are visible to the naked eye

Not all angels are called angels, they have countless other names

Hero/heroine, soldier, police, fire fighter, parent, best friend, survivor

What’s the name of the angel in your life?

Not all Angels wear white

Writer

If you hear

multiple voices in your head

carrying on

novel length conversations

No need to see

a doctor

no need to get alarmed

you have

writerenia

or better known as

writeritis

You may be a writer

take notes

be ready for a

wild roller coaster ride

You might be

a writer

could be worse

The Path

I see a path

I know where I need and want to go

The path is not straight

The path is not smooth

The path isn’t always clear or visible

The path is bumpy

The path is curvy

The path is dark and sometimes hidden

The path is unlike any other

The path has brick walls that need climbed

The path is rainy and wet

The path is sometimes lonely

I see my path

I know where I need and want to go

The path is mine and mine alone

The finish line is still out of range

I will reach the end

I will achieve my goals

Whether I have to walk, run, crawl, climb, jump, or swim

 I will not faltered from the path

 I will not stop

I will not give up

I will not fail

I see the path

I see and know my dreams

 I see the way I need to go

The path is not straight

The path is not smooth

The path is not always clear or visible

The path is not always easy

Forward I will go, ‘til forward is no more

This path is the way to my dreams

This is the path I must travel

Linda Allen is an American from Oklahoma who may be reached at lindaallen4119@att.net and welcomes comments and thoughts on her writing.

“Nin’s Poem: A Bipolar Memoir”: Excerpt from a poem by Shelby Stephenson

SHELBY STEPHENSON

 

“Two together!”

 

Two together!  You come south − or I go north,

day comes dark − or dark comes night,

we live by yearning for blue days new,

all days, common marvels, miraculous as drizzle becoming snow.

 

In the beginning you seemed far away, my love,

leaning out the second-story window at 12 Clarendon,

and I had come from the farm, a working one,

and you stuck your head out and said, “I’ll be right down.”

 

Hypomania?

 

Was it summer ’61?

I worked at a French camp for children of the French Railroad Employees.

After a month Em and I went to Paris for a week.

We had a sandwich at a café, decided to go to the museum.

I asked two Frenchmen at the counter − in French − for directions:

“Do you speak English?  We’ll give you a ride!”

“Sammy” drove us to the museum and they stayed with us!

Then Sammy drove us to a place for something to drink.

Sammy’s friend wanted out.

Sammy drove us to the ballet:  he slid right up against me. 

We got scared − my coat was locked in his car.

He said, “You’ll have to give me cab-fare.”

He drove us to our “hotel,” really a brothel.

We had a double bed.

At breakfast next day Sammy mugged us through the glass out front.

 

Across the road lies Greatgreatgrandpap George.

I’ve traced the path that brought him there.

And you cut out research you would not believe,

the detail of one who “owned” slaves.

I should put “grave” in quotes too.

Truth is − you can’t own anything.

 

The Law and I fail each other (my story)

and I have a “blind” date with Suzy Winter in D. C.

and meet her dad who works for Long Lines, A.T. & T.

And I get a job in White Plains, working all up and down Route 17,

that southern tier in New York State

and I call Chip Davis, a friend from Buffalo (in school with me at Carolina)

and I need a date, as they say,

and I drive up from Olean to see Chip,

meet his friend, Marn, Nin’s sister, at a debutante party.

I dance with Marnie and ask if she has any sisters.

Marnie mentions Linda.

It’s midnight and Chip calls Linda (Nin)

and tells her about “Shelby Stephenson who wants a date for tomorrow night.”

Nin hesitates; then he tells her that Shelby is from out-of-town −

and something about “law school.”

Nin thinks he might be interesting, says, Yes.

When Chip and I arrive at 12 Clarendon Place

we see Linda hanging out a third floor window.

 

She shouts − “Be careful of wet paint.”

 

For now, you, the one of my dreams, the shine in your voice,

call to the terrier, “Want to go for a walk with Mummy?”

And you two are off.

You are full of wellness and strong as can be.

 

“Ever since I started walking I’m able to clean − this Fantastic Orange!

I mention it − and no one’s ever heard of it.”

 

“If I do crash I’ll have a clean, organized place.

Put the colander there; put the bread bowl here.

Never know if I’ll use the square pans or not.”

 

“Can’t we have a few good days?

When you begin to feel well − it’s like a wedding.”

                                                                                               

Say I got lost in the clatter of pots.

Teach me to wait.

 

“It’s been two years since we’ve had a vacation.

We don’t go anywhere.

We have no social life because I have to drag you wherever we go.

You don’t want to go any place because you don’t feel comfortable around people.”

 

I thought you were angry or sad or sarcastic.

I was completely helpless!

Once, I paged you at the grocery store.

I couldn’t see you and thought you had left me.

 

The laughter you fill in slips and thongs

dancing with buttons and bows

binding light through the windows.

 

For decades we’d drive from Southern Pines to Beckley,

spend the night at Mountain Top Campground

and wheel the snow in drifts at the Farm in Boston, near Springville.

You fluff your hair sideways and stride straight out of the terrace-door,

cutting a swath the air cannot chill, the snowmobilers shaking their boots and beards

and whooping and wallowing in their hollers.

 

Your breasts stick out like robed firs lining the path to the Fairy Glen.

 

I can hardly warm a dish; if I were in a cafeteria line I wouldn’t know what food to take. 

 

Panic sits up and yawns.

 

There were times in the night when you

would wake up and feel panic,

unable to catch your breath.

 

Little baby steps up the hill and two back down.

 

I have seen the martins fledge and the bluebirds, too;

all of a sudden, they are off for a flight as definite as the Blue Moon

 

we saw last night sailing full through wisps, steady and high,

coming and going, unafraid, no worry or care,

 

the old house dancing,

the cabaret’s band playing a Spanish two-step soft and low.

 

Cold Buffalo winters:  February, 1940,

your father (old Buffalo), Hamilton, Yale, U. B,

 

your mother − Massachusetts, Newton Center, Vassar −

your middle-name adorning the Letchworth relation on your father’s side,

 

your mother’s holding the sorrowful joy of the House of Collens, for Charles,

the architect (designed the Riverside Church, Cloisters, Union Theological).

 

Your family lived on Ashland Avenue, Gates Circle, shaped like a train,

a long and narrow hallway, little rooms like cabooses, a deck to lie out on,

 

sunshine in breakthroughs the light of your life,

the darkness lit in recall,

 

comparing your early years with mine: your live-in maid,

the image of the war splashing the papers

 

(I remember FDR’s photo in The N & O)

and history’s gesture sledding in on ice-shale,

 

bringing T in March to you two years and one month after you were born,

then Marnie, three years later:

 

Hope was born when I was eleven in ’51.

The Ashland house was too small, though pretty, you said,

 

its yellow-framed two-stories,

a prospect dwelling in my mind for Christmases,

 

the kids’ shouts in war-time,

the snow-covered streets of the neighborhood,

 

snow-ball fights,

and the high, cool, free events without clutter:

 

Mary Lou bit your finger and you rang her doorbell to tell her mother

and then her mother bit Mary Lou’s finger and said, “Now you know how it feels.”

 

The organ-grinder waltzed down the street in summertime: 

he had a monkey on a string:

 

the ice-cream man would come, his bells ringing sound, light, smells:

 

I started Elmwood Franklin Nursery at five;

when I was seven Dad said

 

You can go to Campus School at Buffalo State Teacher’s (third through eighth grades)

and I loved it: it was public, not like Buffalo Seminary,

my private school from the ninth through the twelfth:

 

I think of the horse I loved − Sunshine:  that was ’51:

he was covered with mud:  cost $40.00, died on Valentine’s day, 1952:

Dad “rented” two horses for summer,

Prince, a chestnut bay, and King, a palomino:

the man said he could “take” the horses for the summer

if he would care for a large wound in King’s stomach from a fall, trying to jump a fence:  

 

when I was twelve in ’52, we got tv: neighbors: the Rumseys, Chyrecks:

one day we were playing baseball and I got too hot:

Mum said, “Neenie, darling, take off your shirt” − I had breasts:

the mirror gave something back:

 

in the fifth I think I was the only one in class to learn

there were no napkins anywhere to help me

and Girl Scout Camp’s cot gave back what I did not want to hear or see,

 

the snickering and pointing from my cabin-mates, the flood of embarrassment:

the confused crushes on Boys, the Barn at the Farm inviting as the mirrors I primped:

 

Romance looked good as Lynn who got braces:

the spruce by the window quivered for picnics in March

 

off Emerling Road, where our dream of a place with a beautiful view came true: 

“Who owns this farm?”  “I do,” Mr. Spore said.

 

Soon calves on wobbly knees and crisp-footed horses romped in a new-mown meadow.

Children sang songs on a wagon loaded with hay.

 

Vee and I picked blackberries edging The Farm. 

Dad had the pond dug and tied a duck-decoy to the bottom −

you and I have caught many a sunfish there and fried them −

when we’d change our suits and press our bodies in the bubbles our skin kissed

we would wonder if someone would catch us before we could get back up the hill:

“Hellooooooooooooo.”

 

Dad got in the Christmas-tree Planting Business to help Boston (N. Y.) Conservation.

He was always planting trees.

 

Your farm originally had no running water, just one of those old-time waterpumps?

A tin tub rumbled in the shed not far from your home in the city

 

at 12 Clarendon Place:

your grandpa Collens (Bapa) appeared and said Your beams are rotten?

 

This was after a two-story addition had been finished without stairs.

Upstairs the Dormitory went up:  Bapa designed a little study?

 

Mum hired a blacksmith to forge special hardware −

she wanted an authentic colonial home.

 

Uncle Harold Olmsted designed a chimney with the wave of his hand:

it smoked every time you struck a match,

 

but it WAS beautiful

when we married 30 July 1966

he drew a sketch of our outdoor wedding and called it

an “Elizabethan Setting for an Elizabethan Wedding,

Love to Linda and Shelby from Grandpa O:

Lintemarho, Emerling Lane, Bostonshire, America.”

 

When you turned fifteen, stable and self-conscious, you began the network of moods, your depression already set,

though you did not know to know what invitations to football games would do to you:

 

I was lying back on the couch and I asked Johnny if he had ever felt down

and he said, Yes: What do you do, I said,

and he:  “Figure out what’s wrong and get rid of it”:

 

when one falls to pieces − far, far away, glands rage in places suspended in time;

gestures sweep positions for forgetting what happens when there is no line

and good and bad love you the same, as depression walks in,

follows understanding, as snow falls in the ryefield, memory’s score:

the heavens keep a symphony for the spirit left in temporal silences:

a little mania’s a good thing, don’t you think:

 

to roam in cool beginnings

the way, say, boys brag about their conquests

as if the first bed does not educate

but understands the door should be locked in case someone might come,

maybe the cook − relieving himself by the cabin-door:

just a summer job, the aftermath of one rubber slung across a room for denial,

 

in the streams, heaving their wings, the bloodsucking flies

toward the cowboy on the make,

 

the flutter of romance all summer long reality’s sputter:

I had my knapsack and my fluffy blue pajamas

 

when I worked at A-Bar-A, that dude ranch in Wyoming,

my parents proud of me for working;

 

other times I  headed the glee club at Buff Sem and arranged 

for the Harvard choir to come to Sem − I did all that:  and when they came, 

two of the choir slept upstairs:

 

I sold tickets to the concert to pay the way for the singers to come from Boston: 

I planned a dance, too, my math teacher at Sem was surprised,

since earlier that year in her class I was depressed:

 

my big achievements came when I was up: 

then I went to Bradford Junior College and could not get into the chorus:                           

neither could I get into the small singing group because I could not read music:

just as I was “up” at A-Bar-A, I went off with my cowboy and stayed overnight −

I was told I would be fired as Salad Girl if I strayed from the ranch again.

 

Oh give me a home where the buffalo roam, where seldom is heard

encouraging words

and the sky’s unclouded all day:

when I was up I could do anything. 

 

My roommate at Bradford, Carol went to Europe the summer I went to A-Bar-A:

she married an art director: he had children, very wealthy, owned a gallery:

 

she has a good life; was my one friend at Bradford:

I learned to make myself come:  one night she heard me: 

 

she did not know what I was doing:

Carol’s friend had a big boat:

my cowboy went on the boat too:

 

I was depressed.

And she knew.

She told me she thought I should see a psychiatrist:

Carol and I were very close, even when I was depressed:

 

she introduced me to Doogy, a student at Brown:

he invited me for a ski weekend:  hands rub the body:  it’s like dining out:

Cabdriver, come on down to Greenleaf Hall!

Times take wrong turns:

necking becomes a carriage, a drive-in, a sway of gods and goddesses:

the last cold snowflake feels like a winter of snow:

 

I understood the “black” situation when I was at Columbia School of Social Work:

the girls in my group were black:

 

I was depressed: Mum and Dad came:  we went to see one of my teachers:

half, at least were black:  I remember that Mum and Dad were really surprised:

 

that was the time JFK was killed:  all this deepens frustration.

You were trying to study for statistics at Columbia?

 

I came out of the depression and sailed through my exams:  

when I was down I could not decide on craft-titles for my group-work:  

 

my supervisor told me not to use plaster: I did:

the children’s hands in plaster got all over the house:

 

he recommended that I leave school and get some help:

I was crushed, yet relieved:

 

the dean told me after two years, after I got help,

I could reapply and hopefully finish my degree:  

 

after that I got a job in Pittsburgh at the Jewish Home for the Aged: 

I was head of admissions:

 

I was feeling very well:

part of my job was to go through the unclaimed clothing of the deceased:

I found a bottle of whiskey and a belt:

we drank the whiskey and you wore the belt for years:

 

I came out of a down in June, ’66,

applied for a job at Vocational Rehabilitation, City of Pittsburgh:

 

Mr. Calson told me after my  interview,

“Oh, Miss Wilson, you do not hang your coat in the director’s office!”

 

There were no positions available

and I had to wait about three months before I was hired:

 

I was depressed when we married, 30 July 1966:

I had been calling to check on a client

who had been electrocuted and had brain-damage:

I was so depressed: his wife said,

“I don’t know why you are calling; I don’t appreciate it.”

 

Dr. Russell:  “Your ability to conceptualize is gone, isn’t it?”

When I would go see him I would see patients who were my clients: 

 

all gets jumbled up:  at Columbia, I stayed at Johnson Hall:

my classes were in the Andrew Carnegie House down in the city:

 

I had to take the subway and bus to get to my field-work at night:

roller coaster world: 

 

euphoria, heaviness, my spine tingling, legs running in a downpour,

back up, knees bent up under my chin until the pain would stop:

 

depression’s like an alarm that does not go off;

memory aches in rumpled underclothes and a flow of mental pain:

 

I heard the phrase, “physiological cyclical illness”

for the first time at the Lahey Clinic, 1964:

 

Fall, ’68, we left Pittsburgh for Madison, Wisconsin:

September 11, 1970, Jacob was born:  three months later I got depressed:

I stayed low until June, 1971,

 

when I had Electro Shock Therapy − three times −

Dr. Winston:  started lithium:  I came out of my depression for eight years:

I wonder if the shock therapy helped me last that long:

 

and somewhere in there I went to the Mayo Clinic, I think, searching for answers,

evaluations −

and meds, meds, meds:

 

the stumbling and falling:

Holly Hill Hospital, early January, 1983:

 

my meds were stopped for a week and I came out without having EST:

had nine years without a depression:

 

I went down, down, down in the early ’90s, lowest, I think, I’ve ever been:

worried about insurance payments, the price of pork-n-beans, every little thing:

 

broke my ankle in ’95, when I was “up,” hypomanic, and  on crutches for six months:  Dr. Andrews became my psychiatrist:

 

when we left Southern Pines in spring, ’96,

she referred me to Dr. B

 

who doctors me as you write this memoir-poem-prose-remembrance:

and oh the symptoms always become the same:

 

wound up and can’t relax, no energy;

waking at 5 o’clock a.m. −

 

scattered feelings, no concentration, can’t remember, can’t converse or conceptualize:

I feel retarded, staring at post-its, grocery lists:

 

across from where I am sitting and writing, I hear the rasp of a file in the darkness:

the sound drifts back and forth in that Valley of Despair

 

I am trying to find words for − the nothingness of conversations and the pounding heart −

I fell apart in front of one of my supervisors:

 

he said:  “You can’t even make up your mind whether to stay or go, can you?”

I left, wondering if I could even drive home.

I was a long way from the jet-stream feeling when I was up: 

                       

the hollow curvature of your spine swings a high way to climb,

until there is no string to hold on to, no string at all.

 

Shelby Stephenson’s Family Matters:  Homage to July, the Slave Girl won the 2008 Bellday Poetry Prize, Allen Grossman, judge.

“The Climate War”: An essay by Randle Aubrey

“Here at Exxon, we hate your children.”

The campaign in support of climate change reform recently took a dramatic turn with the latest attack ad on the fossil fuel industry from the grassroots organization The Other 98%. “Making a fortune destroying your kids’ future? At Exxon, that’s what we would call good business!” the ad proclaims, in one of the most searing indictments against the fossil fuel industry to date. Using satire to expose the colossal waste of taxpayer dollars used to prop up an industry with no regard for public welfare or personal liberty, the ad went viral almost immediately, having been perfectly timed for release at the height of 2012’s widely publicized “fiscal cliff” negotiations. Hundreds of thousands of views and considerable attention from progressive media outlets successfully managed to ruffle the feathers of Exxon’s higher-ups, compelling them to release the following statement: “Energy use and climate change are critically important challenges facing society that won’t be resolved with media campaigns that rely on provocative language and false allegations.”

It appears The Other 98% struck a nerve. Good.

As you might have figured out by now, speaking truth to power is considered rude. It’s not nice. “Manners are of more importance than laws,” wrote philosopher Edmund Burke, quoted by sycophantic conservative mouthpiece David Brooks in a recent New York Times article regarding President Obama’s sharper tone against House Republicans in recent months. Legitimately challenging the status quo has become something to be patronized by our mainstream media, a place where indignation is met with outrage and appeals to civility are the first defense against appeals to reason. Those who choose not to toe the line with the rest of the political paparazzi are chided as impertinent children or castigated as rebellious upstarts, and it would seem that what’s expected of liberals and progressives in “legitimate” political discourse is to say please, shut the fuck up, and wait until the grownups are done talking, on any subject from the “fiscal cliff” to what some are now referring to as the “climate cliff”.

The time for playing nice is over when it comes to climate change. It’s happening, whether we like it or not. In a recent feature in Rolling Stone called “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math”, leading environmental activist and founder of 350.org Bill McKibben states that the fossil fuel industry has “five times as much oil and coal and gas on the books as climate scientists think is safe to burn.” He goes on to state that we’d “have to keep 80 percent of those reserves locked away underground to avoid that fate,” and we’ve got ten years at best to get started shutting down this aberrant vision of “progress” before we begin to be subjected to the full weight of its folly. Simply put, time is running out.

But if you’re reading this, you probably already knew that. The question is: how do we get the world on board?

It’s become abundantly clear that appealing to people’s reason in the discussion about climate change is a lost cause. Companies like Exxon-Mobil, Shell, and BP have done a phenomenal job of sowing enough doubt regarding mankind’s influence on climate change that the subject has become a dead issue in American politics, causing a jaded public to collectively shrug their shoulders and assume it’ll sort itself out. The mainstream media’s not covering it whatsoever; it was almost completely off the table in the 2012 presidential elections. Even when the argument is occasionally rolled out for public display, those that speak on our behalf are derided and disregarded by so-called “climate skeptics”, snake-oil salesmen peddling bogus facts, figures, and empty promises designed to misguide an ambivalent public towards a path of inevitable destruction, both immediate and long-term. All this for the sake of lining the pockets of greedy shareholders so insulated from the consequences of their actions that they literally cannot and will not see not only the destruction they have wrought, but the impending doom that lies ahead for all mankind, including themselves. The tight-knit web of corruptive collusion between government officials, fossil fuel lobby groups, and mainstream media outlets has yanked the soapbox out from under the scientific community, and shoved them into the back of the bus. How’s that for “nice”? How’s that for “politeness”?

But widespread media suppression, corruption and pseudoscience are not the only problems with getting anything done in this arena. One of the biggest problems reformers face is that the issue of climate change itself is an abstraction. It’s not that interesting, because it’s not happening right in front of us at a rate that we can easily perceive. Given mankind’s relatively short attention span and inclination towards high drama over high-brow science, charts and graphs and mild-mannered scientists aren’t exactly “wowing” people. Most of those who have come forward to speak on civilization’s behalf seem either unwilling or unable to capitalize on this behavior, and find new and innovative ways to appeal to people’s outrage as well as their reason. Climate change advocacy needs fire and brimstone; it needs pulpit-pounding stump speeches. We need to make people understand that they have been betrayed by those who they have charged with stewardship over this planet’s resources. We need to start talking about who we’re fighting, not what.

The fossil fuel industry is a hive mind gone completely rogue, a bloated, cancerous growth upon our planet that places the welfare of its shareholders over that of life itself. Unmoored from governmental oversight through rampant corruption, fossil fuel companies and their ilk have tightened their web around the globe, breaking and bending laws with reckless abandon nearly every single day and bribing their way through the advancement of their exploitative agenda, leaving a path of environmental and economic ruin in their wake. They beg, borrow, and steal their way across our lands, into our communities, spewing black filth into our rivers, into our skies, into our soil. It fills our lungs and our bellies, and our bodies grow ripe with decay over every successive generation. And worst of all, they have learned to exploit almost every environmental tragedy, whether man made or not, as an economic opportunity. Not just in the fossil fuel business, but in every business, from education to banking to defense. They are all connected. Our institutions have failed to protect us; they are hamstrung by greed. We must stand up for ourselves and fight.

In the war for the future of mankind, climate change reformers are losing.

A war needs armies. A war needs generals. Most importantly, a war needs tactics; ruthless ones. We have to hit them where it hurts: their reputation, and the machine that supports it. So if we can’t win with the facts people won’t believe, then we have no choice but to fight with the ones they will. We have to tell a new story, one that attaches fossil fuel companies’ crimes against humanity to people’s core values. We need to talk about saving the world of today rather than the world of tomorrow, focusing on almost everything but the science in order to do this, using it only to support our righteous indignation towards willful ignorance and criminal neglect. We need to tell the truth: these people are criminals. They do not care about us. And they must be stopped.

The future is not the only thing at stake. Justice herself is in danger. She must no longer remain blind.

 

Poetry from Cristina Deptula

 

Gordon’s Airplane
for Gordon Jones (and Dante Cassius)

Empty gas tank
Rusting fuselage
Waiting at the airport

Man without a job
Sleeping in his van
yet wearing aviator glasses

In this era
of unbalanced budgets
cascading markets
and rampant foreclosure

it is good to feel
a bit of fancy
the last of whimsy
extra space for a dream

to know Gordon’s private plane
still rests in the hangar.

Harmony with Nature

My father walks in from the yard
old jeans stained with mud
sees me playing Farmville

clicking water into the tomato patch
digging up pixels
and typing in fertilizer

he asks me to come pull Bermuda grass
out of the broccoli

‘Gardens come in 3-D, you know.’

Wise Construction

after failure
I asked the inmost me
why do I act so unlike myself?

How could I have hurt those I loved
and placed others in danger?

How to unlink the chains
and reposition the pathway stones
that looked right at the start
but veered off course?

How to start again now?

clean my hands by building with them
new structures on fresh ground
better a solid house than a flimsy castle

let myself be challenged
pick apart and purify motivations

Stay under budget, allot enough time
for my inner work crew

to choose healthy materials
and functional tools
not paint over wood rotten from the inside

and follow the guidebook
for original, but safe, construction.

 

Cristina Deptula is a writer from San Leandro, California. She can be reached at cedeptula@sbcglobal.net.

Poetry from Janine Canan

 

POEMS FROM INDIA BY JANINE CANAN

 

Crucifixion of a Woman

 

I. To the Fake Guru Who Blames Her

It is not she who should have fallen

at the feet of her rapists—

but you who should fall

at her disembodied martyred feet

 

and beg forgiveness.

 

 

II. To the Martyr

It’s the pole the men shoved

into your vagina through your intestines

to your diaphragm—

that I cannot  get out of my heart.

 

When you return, in your next life,

may every cell incandesce with Joy

at what your sacrifice achieved

for half of humankind.

 

 

III. To the Ancient Banyan that Receives Her

At your feet, how many urns of ash

of bodies battered, burned and raped

have been poured

 

feeding your ever deeper roots,

many expanding trunks,

long imploring arms?

 

And how many more vital young women

reduced to ash will be yours

in the centuries to come?

 

In memory of Braveheart Singh, Asia, 2013

 

 

O Star

My mother used to say

about me as a child:

Don’t worry, she was born

under a Lucky Star.

 

How did I feel about being

pawned off on some distant star?

Not good. But now

I realize she was right.

 

Thank you, O Star!

For your relentless, protective, urgent

beam that has shown me

my path in the dark.

 

 

Body and Soul

The body is flowing

downwards, downwards

to rejoin the earth.

 

How it must long,

the body, for that clay

and ash and worms.

 

When it arrives there,

the soul will be free

to rise and float away.

 

The soul that no one knows,

that cannot be seen

except by Seers who say

 

it is a vapor,

it is light, it is God’s

very essence.

 

Where will it go

without its cloak? Its shrine?

Its root? Its reason?

 

It came for some purpose,

assignment, or duty—

a role in creation.

 

Will it be satisfied once free?

Will it like the next stop?

Be happy? Lonely? Or sorry?

 

And those who do not believe

in what they cannot see

with their small soft brief eyes—

 

they will kneel on the gravestone

and cry, with fear

they will shake.

 

As their bodies keep flowing

downwards, back down

into the earth.

 

 

Meditation

My body was taken

and then my mind

 

and my heart was filled

with a deep vibration.

 

I knew nothing

for I had disappeared.

 

And then I heard the music—

in all directions, it was coming from me!

 

Path

It is one thing to hear about a spiritual master

and another to decide

to go and meet her.

 

It is one thing to accept her blessings again

and again, another to take her

as your teacher.

 

One thing to try to follow her teachings,

another to renounce attachment

to this world ever pleading.

 

One, to wear the pure white of renunciation,

another to put on the blazing orange

that burns your ego to a crisp.

 

And quite another to surrender

altogether, and become truly

one with God.

 

 

Knowledge

 

I Long Ago

Long, long ago,

you didn’t go to a church or an ashram

to be spiritual

 

every step you took

was spiritual.

 

II The Treasure

It is not found in books.

They are merely maps.

 

It is buried deep

in experience.

 

III To Know

In the long unfolding of humanity,

the constant search for our source,

much confusion

has arisen.

 

Now we need a purification

of confusion, if we are to know

the essence inherent

in all things.

 

IV To Feel

We know the teachings.

Now we to need to live them.

 

To sand away negativities

and egotisms, so we can open

our pores to what is

 

so we can feel

the light.

To Justine Shapiro, 2013

Poetry from Sam Burks

 

the 29th

The seasons seemed to shift
in the opposite
direction

missing was the equinox

present was a leap year
drawing out in decades
and a rare birthday
such as that
was only a moment
on your flesh

like a flower you were
blossoming under red leaves
the spring would have
to wait
with the reaper

in summer you can still
wither, and I could
freeze to death
under pedals of sun-beams

it matters little
the opinions of the clock
when time unveils a linear insanity
we will be living and dying
in the beginning and the end

 

too quick the sunset

I watched the colors
of the sunset
freeze;
an abnormal chill
spread through the fiery shades
dictating a glow across
a labyrinth
of dusty windows

I felt alive,
but suspended

dangling as if from
an abstract shape
in the sky
I saw everything
stop–
all time and the
flow of headlights
balanced in the last
seconds of the day–
the finale of eternity
holding strong in my gaze

alive for a moment
and when the moment
is over and the pinkish-orange
light fades into a cold violet
I could still be
suspended
in a shadow somewhere
still holding the glow
in my gaze

 

tomorrow

This morning I just had
to stand
in the window
without coffee
or stretch
or yawn
or even a cigarette

I saw the translucent
vapor crowning the hills
to the west,
and the far away peaks
to the south
under a thin sheet
of snow

it’s winter now,
another season passed,
another season born,
and still the same old
sleepy eyes
wandering down the valley
with a million names

my home; my people;
my constant change
of heart
still lingering
in the breeze,
in the songs
of birds,
in the puddles left
on the ground
from yesterday’s rain

the old still
new, and the new
holds still
in the swaying
fabric of this
particular reality

I just had to walk
outside, barefoot,
tank-topped, torn long-johns
barely protecting
the legs
that would carry me
forward
into the rest
of forever

and sure, it was
cold, the going
was difficult,
but I
just had to laugh
for all that I
didn’t realize
I had,
I guess I’m just
thankful
to have made it
this far

Morning Glory

Morning glory breathe
your sunlight unto me
as I step between
barren rows
of grape vine
under a chilly field
of unobstructed blue

let your organic rays
blind my eyes
for a moment
and dew shimmering diamonds
soak me
to the soul

rich is the man
who wakes to crisp echoes
of frost melting over
the wild meadow
to the songs of birds
who stuck around
for the season
away from highways
and airstrips
flooding ears until
the spell has been broken

morning glory catch
the skipped beats
in the sunshine,
the breaths held
in the cold breeze,
warm these frozen bones
with your love, you have found me
again, eyes widened with thanks

wandering behind
old wooden fences
draped with moss,
through naked trees
and slippery stone,
you found me
yet again, holding your
love against corruption,
facing the day with
the boldness
of my riches

 

your body is the missing season

Yes, I admit
I miss your skin
grafting to mine

I miss the summer
between your legs
where I raised
an army of snowmen
in little lines

in winter I would throw back
the blankets
to find the next season
tattooed on your naval

I admit
that the memory stops
here

but I miss
the humid weather–
warm autumn days like this
remind me of the skin

 

her ocean

The curve of her spine
is the horizon,
like the ocean, pure,
uncharted, a shroud
hiding wonder
and quite possibly
demise for those
who seek
without understanding

I’ve never walked
this beach before.
I let the universe
wrap itself
around my ankles
first, then my knees
fell under
and I sat
in her wake,
hands full of sand,
to me those grains
made up the soft flesh

and I could feel
the breathing
through my fingers
as my palms came
to embrace the endless curve,
her body, an ocean
her heart, the vibrating
contrast between water and sky,
her eyes, the life
that transcends those layers,
and I, a part
of it all,
suspended in awe
at the vastness
in and around
our bodies

 

Sam Burks is from the San Francisco Bay Area, in California, and can be reached at srburks@gmail.com

Poetry review: Deborah Fruchey on Elaine Starkman’s Hearing Beyond Sound

Hearing Beyond Sound

New & collected poems by Elaine Starkman

(dvs publishing, October 2012)

This is not a book that shouts at you. Rather, it starts as a pleasant low hum, almost in the background, as the poet puts down her pen to savor a quiet moment. Gradually, as one strolls through the poems, it becomes a soft song: a song of leaving with no regret, gratitude for the present moment, wistful curiosity about what still lies ahead.

Starkman is an older poet, and this is not a book easily accessible for the young; it speaks of the careful appreciation of the latter half of life as one meanders toward its finish. There are moments of dread: in “Traveling Toward Dawn” Starkman writes that she must pick up my broken pencil/and ride a dark omnibus/until dawn. There are moments of wry acceptance, the author saying, Go right ahead–/Pain makes/the poem (“Outside, August 2006”). I am especially enamored of “A Cousin Called Simone,” in which the author encounters a seamstress with the same last name and fantasizes hopefully on how they might be related. This is especially poignant since the effects of the Holocaust have apparently left Starkman with not as much family as she would like.

But most of the poems reflect a growing understanding of life and one’s place in it. As she says in “Apricots for Isaac,” Only now do I know/what I’ve mistaken for wisdom. She speaks of weeping not for Mother Death/whom I agreed to meet/but for Sister Life/whose face I’d/forgotten (“Spirit Rock, 1999”).

Ms. Starkman has taught writing for 30 years at Diablo Valley College, UC Berkeley Extension, St. Mary’s College, and currently for Osher Life Long Learning Institute. She was the recipient of a Pen West award in 1999. Previous poetry books include a collection with 5 other poets, My Dreaming Waking Life (2009). Her short stories are represented in two Seal Press offerings: Things That Divide Us and Family: Views from the Interior, the Use of Personal Narratives in the Helping Professions. Her prose also appears in Learning to Sit in Silence: A Journal of Caretaking (1993).

If you believe in supporting poetry and indie publishing, Hearing Beyond Sound (available at Amazon) is a good book for quiet, contemplative moments.